Opposition the visible face of fear

"The faultfinder will find faults even in paradise. “– Henry David Thoreau

All of us face opposition in different ways in our day-to-day lives, especially in our workplaces. When we try to do something important and significant, we are bound to face opposition. In a way, opposition is validation that we are creating significant change! Sometimes we might find ourselves on the other side, and being inside or at the center of the opposition might stop you from seeing the bigger picture.

The Oppositional scale of the Circumplex model measures our tendency to use the defensive and aggressive strategy of disagreeing with others, and to seek attention by being critical and cynical. While clarifying and refining ideas by asking probing questions can be a valuable skill, oppositional people typically choose to verbally assault others to gain feelings of importance and self-satisfaction.

An oppositional behavior is often connected with arguing. A strong need for recognition prompts the person to respond to others with skepticism and sarcasm. This behavior may mask a fear of getting too close to people. By behaving in ways that cause others to become defensive, oppositional individuals can succeed in pushing people away. Unfortunately, this behavior usually results in rejection and isolation, which prevents oppositional people from being as effective in life as they could be.

What are the causes and symptoms of this sin?

  • The ability to ask thought probing questions
  • A tendency to seem aloof and detached from people
  • A need to look for flaws in everything
  • A tendency to make others feel uncomfortable
  • A negative, cynical attitude
  • A sarcastic sense of humor

Inevitably, this sin creates unwritten laws such as “Being hard to impress” or “Opposing new ideas”.

These types of norms flourish in organizations where confrontation and criticism prevail. Members fit in by pointing out flaws, opposing the ideas of others, and making safe (but often ineffectual) decisions that can’t be challenged. These types of norms lead to the identification of quality-related problems but create a defensive climate in which people disagree about the reasons for (and solutions to) those problems.

How many times have we been in a meeting hearing that magnificent sentence that gets on our nerves when it comes from our children: “Yes, but ....." and the wrath takes hold of us, and we really want to say "Yes, but nothing!". This is the most typical sign of opposition, and that "but" is usually accompanied by questions that prompt you to answer that what you have proposed is not possible. Simply put, it is the attitude of fear that seeks not to leave the comfort zone and uses the defensive strategy of "first I say No, and then we'll see", so that hopefully nothing will change.

How can this sin be avoided?

If you commit it:

  • Realize that instead of admiring you for your oppositional stands, others probably view you as an obstacle to overcome.
  • Withhold the urge to reject an idea until you fully understand it. If you don't understand something, say so. Try asking thoughtful, constructive questions and really listening to the answers.

If you have an organization:

  • Prohibits the sentence: "Yes, but…".
  • Praise others more often. If you like something, say so. Don't criticize something or someone merely out of habit.

Don't miss the upcoming article, in which we will look at power as the best way to fail to achieve commitment. If you want to know more about how to manage change and build resilient organizations, contact us! info@avancegroup.eu